Interesting Facts about Earth’s First Voyage to Pluto

Facts About the NASA Horizons Mission to Pluto

  • Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, a 24 year old American Astronomer
  • Half of Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes are on-board the New Horizons. The NASA team is hoping to bring Clyde up close and personal with the Planet he discovered to “say hello”.
  • Inscribed on the canister holding Clyde’s ashes it says: “Interned herein are remains of American Clyde W. Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto and the solar system’s ‘third zone.'”
  • New Horizons spacecraft started its voyage to Pluto on January 19, 2006
  • Ironically, a short time after the New Horizons launch, the Planet Pluto was demoted from “Planet” to “Dwarf Planet”.
  • The New Horizons spacecraft is the fastest spacecraft ever to leave the Earth, traveling at 31,000 miles per hour.
  • New Horizons passed 7,750 miles above the surface of Pluto on July 14, 2015
  • Regardless of the name, “Planet” or “Dwarf Planet”, investigating Pluto and the unexplored Kuiper Belt is critical to completing our understanding of the solar system we live in
  • Pluto exists in a new region yet to be explored by scientists called the Kuiper belt.
  • The Kuiper Belt is important because Scientists believe the objects residing in the Kuiper Belt “…will tell us a lot about the formation and evolution of the solar system…Studying these objects gives us our best window into the time-frame of the formation of the solar system.”
  • Currently, the solar system is believed to have been formed 4.6 billion years ago
  • The travel time for a one way trip to Pluto traveling at 31,000 miles per hour took the Horizon 9.5 years

Other oddities included on-board the New Horizons Spacecraft:

  • A CD with 434,00 people’s name included. Part of the “Send Your Name to Pluto” event to be part of Earth’s First Journey to Pluto.
  • Two stamps; one stating “Pluto: Not Yet Explored” and one stating “New Horizons Mission to Pluto”
  • Two versions of the US Flag
  • A Florida State quarter to represent the launch and a Maryland state quarter to represent the state New Horizons was built in
  • A small piece cut from Spaceship One
  • A CD with all the pictures of New Horizons project personnel




Image: NASA

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